- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

The House yesterday approved an amendment calling for $99.4 million in emergency anti-drug funds to assist in Colombia’s war against narco-terrorists by replacing 23 aircraft that have been shot down or crashed since 2000 and buying three new ones for the Colombian National Police and the country’s navy.

The money was included as an add-on to a pending $72.4 billion appropriations bill for the war on terrorism and passed 250-172 amid a flurry of votes on several spending projects. It faces formal approval in the House and then will be sent to Senate for a vote.

Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican and chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said the money would be used in interdiction efforts in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean, from where tons of cocaine and heroin are moved each year to the United States, and the efforts would “bolster counternarcotic assistance to Colombia.”

The amendment was co-sponsored by Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the International Relations Committee; Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform Committee; Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Government Reform subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy and human resources; and Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution.

Last week, senior congressional and Colombian officials told The Washington Times that a Bush administration decision to divert money for Colombian drug interdiction and eradication programs to the war on terrorism had opened up the southern U.S. border to a new flood of heroin and cocaine.

Colombia is the source for about 90 percent of the cocaine that ends up each year in the United States, as well as a majority of the heroin. Colombian officials said escalating violence along the U.S.-Mexico border was being fueled by the increase in drugs from Colombia.

The funds, Mr. Burton said, would overcome the loss of U.S. and allied drug interdiction assets in recent years, providing assistance that would help prevent illegal drugs from reaching Mexico and the creation of crime and violence along the U.S. border, which “expands into our cities and communities here at home.”

In a letter to Rep. David Dreier, California Republican and chairman of the House Rules Committee, Mr. Burton said more than $50 million in aid had been provided to Africa — also outside President Bush’s supplemental request — and asked that “our effort to be helpful to the Colombian government of Alvaro Uribe, our best friend in the Andean region, be provided the same opportunity.”

In the past three years, a senior congressional aide said, homeland security demands in the United States had resulted in a 70 percent reduction in the aircraft available to the Colombian and U.S. navies for interdiction efforts.

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